Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Riddle me this

OK, so I moan about the job market et al. But really I'm having a rather good few weeks. The VBA training courses are over*, so I don't have to worry about producing more training materials. A couple of other sources of panic have passed me by. I'm working 8-6 to make up hours, and I'm struggling with my halloween costume, but these are fairly minor problems really.

And so I do what I do every time my mind starts to free itself up: I come up with interesting little tasks for myself. I've been working on a pygame-based strategy game. I've started looking back over my textbooks in search of cool concepts. And I'm trying to invent a new kind of puzzle.

A whatnow?

Every month, the UK's actuarial trade mag, The Actuary, has a puzzle page. Since the actuarial profession consists entirely of maths geeks, these are often rather good (I'm still trying to figure out how they do the 16*16 Sudokus without employing a supercomputer or two).

However, it's quite rare for the puzzles to show real innovation. Normally they're of a pre-existing type (crosswords, sudoku, logic puzzles, number grids). The actual problems are damn hard, but they're not conceptually challenging**.

I'd like to change that.

I'm working on what I believe is a new design of puzzle. It will require not only sudoku-style pattern recognition, but also excellent spatial awareness. This is because it is played on the surface of a truncated polygon. Yes.

It's not going to make me famous, but if I'm contemplating leaving the actuarial profession then I would like to go out on a high note. Causing actuaries across the UK to spit coffee over their keyboards would be a good start.

* Actually they went really well. I discovered about an hour before giving the second training day that some of my trainees were from other companies that were paying my company for the training. This caused much panic. But the day went like a charm, the trainees really enjoyed it, and I can now put "professional trainer" on my CV :)

** The November edition contains a counterexample, but even that is just a combination of sudoku and another pre-existing type.

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